For the skeptics who need further corroboration, various other studies from TIMSS, World Bank, NCAER to ASER reflect how far behind India is on the global education map.
However, Indian students have tremendous potential but they lack the resources that allow them to reach this potential. That’s not to say India doesn’t have good educational institutions. Unfortunately, these are mere islands of excellence floating in a vast ocean of mediocrity.
India is set to become a global superpower, and while many enhancements are required, there are two most important things the education policies need to address and significantly improve:
Marriage, then B Ed
India’s total number of teachers, from Primary to Higher Secondary, as per 2011 government data sounds impressive at 65 lakh; only till you realise that there are over one lakh schools in India that have just one teacher.
On the first day of their B Ed degrees, when participants were asked why they chose the teaching profession, many say, “I’m married now, so my family thinks teaching, spending time with children, will be a good job for me,” or “I couldn’t handle the rigours, stress, and timings of my corporate job, so came in for something that I thought will be easier.” There is a need to change this mindset.
From the era of Rabindranath Tagore’s Shantiniketan to the present, the respect for teachers has significantly declined. Here, we could borrow a leaf from Finland, widely recognised as a country with one of the best education systems in the world. Its greatest strength lies in the quality of its teachers. Thirty years ago, Finland was way back in the global education standings, until its education ministry decided to overhaul the teacher intake framework. It’s harder to become a teacher in Finland with an acceptance rate of less than 10%, than it is to become a lawyer or a doctor.
Teaching is the most valued profession in the country and their education ministry rightly recognised the role of teachers in shaping the country’s future. We need to start valuing our teachers and take steps to make teaching the most desirable profession, rather than perpetuating the mindset that considers it as a backup option. We need to attract the best minds, the best talent of the country to take up teaching.
Embracing technology in education
Today’s children are digital natives; they were born in the digital age, unlike the older generation. A two-year-old child, who cannot read or spell can click and swipe to find their favourite cartoon on their parent’s smart phone.
And yet in this era of exponential technological advancement, most of our education institutions don’t optimally use technology to supplement lesson delivery. There should be a balanced use of technology, and the teacher must utilise it to spark the child’s curiosity and imagination because the defining factor here isn’t knowledge but skills.
Technology is here to stay, and there is no point in running away from it or shielding our children from it. However, its balanced use is the key. For this, education policies need to
a) provide the framework for necessary professional development and regular training of teachers and
b) have a mechanism to hold the stakeholders accountable for achieving enhanced learning outcomes
We need to implement effective steps to improve the education system in the country. Our kids are brimming with potential, it is our job to harness that talent and ensure our young stars shine at their brightest.